Before We Were Yours: Book Discussion

When I first started this book, I was sad and angry. Who could do this to kids? Who could kiddnap so many of them and lie to their parnets? And what enraged me was how the hell was this able to go on for three decades?

In the conversations I’ve had with other people about this book, I think that some kind of polical influience was invovled in this so that Geargia Tann could continue to harm kids and their famlies. What I would like to know is how she was able to trick so many people into these contracts. Were many of them unable to read? I think this would make sense given that she targeted poor famlies and they probably just took her word for it. But even with that, weren’t at least some people with high education in the legal field able to do something about it? Maybe the famlies still couldn’t get them back due to finaces, but at allow the famlies to make sure their kid or parnet is okay. Don’t lie and tell them their famlies dead when their not, don’t tell a mother her babies a still born while your stealing her child behind her back. My heart goes out to all the people who were seprated from their famlies like this. I’m glad laws are different now and that bological parnets have more options when it comes to whether or not they want to give their child away. And most importantly, having protection from adoption agencies when they want to keep their kid. Now that I’ve gotten some of my basics thoughts of this book out of the way, I’ll now answer some questions written at the end of the book.

1. Before We Were Yours alternates betweeen the historical story of the Foss children and the modern-day story of Avery Stafford. Did you have a favorite between those story lines? If so, which one and why?

    I like the Boss children story better. I think sometimes I get bred of modern day settings. And I never heard of the river gypsies before, so I found that intriguing. I like that Avery found this part of her family history, but if I wanted to read a story like her I probably grabbed a John Grisham book. In this book I was looking for something different, and I got it! Accept for Avery’s part of the book.

2. Many famlies have been touched in some way by adoption and foster care. Do you have either in your famliy history? If so, how did that effect your thoughts about the journey of the Foss children and about Avery’s excavation of her family history?

     I think I’ve only had one person in my family to be adopted. But that was generations ago and I’m not related to that person biologically. When my Grandma told me about our family history I was excited, like I got to open a treasure chest or something. But now that I read this, I hope that when we adopted that person, that it was something she wanted too and that no one forced her to leave her biological family.

3. When the sisters were originally reunited, they decided to keep their history to themselves rather than telling their famlies. Do you agree or dissagree with this decision? What do you think the imp;licatiuons would have been if the sisters had gone public? Do you think the famliy sercrets should remain secret, particularly after the people who kept those secrets passsed away? Or should family secrets belong to the next generation as well? Have you ever discovered a sercret in your family history? If so, what was it (if you care to share it, that is)?

     I would have to disagree with their decision. I think justice would’ve been served quicker and Georgia Tann would’ve faced some jail time. If they had gone public I think there would most likely be backlash —but I do believe that the truth comes out eventually. I think if they had pushed through it it would’ve helped them in the long run. I don’t like keeping secrets and I don’t see the point in keeping one if most of the people involved were already dead. I’d only keep one if it kept incocent people from being killed. So far, I haven’t really discovered any secrets in my family history.

4. “There was a little girl who had a little curl…” is a touchstone between Avery and her Grandma Judy. Is there a song or saying that reminds you of someone special in your childhood? Where does your mind travel when you hear it or repeat it?

      There is a song my Grandma used to sing about bows. I think it went something like, “when I grow up I want to wear and organge ribbon in my hair…for I am so tired of pink and blue.” I don’t remember all of the song, but it always reminds me of her. And when I was little my mom used to sing Jesus Loves Me to my brother and I. She also had us “sing” it in sign launage. When I think of the bow song my mind travels to my Grandparnet’s living room. Specify my Grandma sitting in her recliner next to a large window.

5. Avery laments that the busy schdule expected of a Stafford has prevented her from spending time on Edisto Island with her sisters or Elliot. “Who chooses the schdules we keep? We do, I guess,” she tells herself, but then excuses this with “The good life demands a lot of maintanance.” do you feel that, in our modern age, we are too busy? Too preoccuopied with accumulating things to enjoy what we have? Too dialed in to media and socail media? Is there anything you’d like to change about your own schdule? What might you gain if you did?

     I do feel like we get super busy. Its hard to find time for friends and family. Its hard to find time just to relax. I’m lucky I’ve found ways to make my life easier. However, I still have a lot to do. I do think we are too preoccupied with accumulating things material or otherwise. We buy too much, dive into hobbies, and work so much that we hardly take time for the things that really matter in life. I do think about and look at social media too much. Half the people we look at don’t even know us yet we still seem to criticize their lives instead of our own. One thing I like to change about my schedule is to be able to spend more time with my family and relax. I think I’d gain a lot more happiness and I wouldn’t worry about things as often as I do.

6. While Rill sees her lilfe on the Arcadia through the idyllis eyes of childhood, May in her old age seems to acknowlege that she wouldn’t have traded the life she lived for a different one. Do you think she wonders whether Queenie and Briny’s unconventional existence on the Arcadia would have been sustainable as times changed or more children were added to the family? Were Queenie and Briny responsible or careless in their choices?

     I think eventually she would’ve realized that her life wouldn’t have been that sustainable. Unless she got lucky and her family all got good jobs and eventually ended up having better lives. If they had more children I think their lives would be a lot harder if Queenie kept having them back to back. I think they were kind of careless, if it was hard to find work and would probably be easier for them to have the house boat and moved around. Queenie watched them and they seemed to love their kids. However, I think they were just too young and bit off more then they could chew.


7. May says, “A woman’s past need not predict her furture. She can dance to her new music if she chooses. Her own music.” How has the past made who you are? What, if anything. do you want to leave behind? What is the true “music” of your soul? Are you in step with it or out of step? What helps you hear your own music and find balance in your life?

     I think my past had made me pretty rigid. I spent a lot of time doing chores and making money even when I was little. I want to leave behind a lot of the business and just learn to relax. I think the music of my soul is quiet. I think I’m pretty out of step with it, but I’m trying to get better. Lighting candles, listening to music, reading and drawing help me to find my music and balance in my life.

8. When fear of being caught threatens to prevent her from escaoping Miss Murphy’s house, Rill says, ” I shulsh my mind, because your mind can ruin you if you let it.” Does you mind ever ruin you? If so, in what way, and on what issues? May commets, “We’re always trying to oerrsuade ourselves of things.” Are women particularly guilt of this? What do they tell themselves that they shouldn’t?

     I think I let it ruin me sometimes. I get so caught up in negative thoughts that I don’t think about moving forward. I think I can get overwhelmed with stuff sometimes that I’ll just give up for a little bit. I think women are trying to persuade themselves that they are as bad as they think they are. When in reality they’re not nearly as bad as they though they were. A lot of them feel hopeless in worthless, when we are actually the opposite.

9. Child trafficking, abuse, and economis disadvantage still imperil the lives and furtures of children today. What can we as ordinary citizens do to prevent chil;dren from being robbed of safe, happy childhoods? What can society do to prevent people like Georgia Tann form taking advantage of the most helpless and vulnerable among us?

     Keep and eye on them —even if they aren’t our own kids. Ask them questions, if they are showing signs of abuse let them know they are safe with us and we wouldn’t let anything bad happen to them anymore. Make sure biological families have access to adoption information. And have law enforcement and child protection agencies look over adopting centers.

10. Did you search for the information about Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society after reading Before We Were Yours? If so, wahat did you learn? Bassed on what you know, what do you think motivated Georgia Tann? Why were so many people willling to complicit in her schemes when they knew children were suffering? Was GEorgia’s network a creature of political corruption and society attitudes of its time, or could something like this happen today?

     Yes! I did it before I even finished the book. I found what the real news ads looked like and discovered that Miss Tank had the orphanage for 20 years. I also found out the she had a daughter. I’m not really sure what motivated her other than the money. I still don’t know why so many people were complicit with their schemes. But I’m assuming it also because of the money and they had some bias against poor people. I still think something like this could happen today.

11. Avery feels the pressure of being in a high-profile political family. Do you think famous famliesa are held to a higher standard than others? Should they be? Has this changed in recent years, or is it just harder to hide our flaws and misdeeds in today’s media-crazied world?

     I think they are held to a higher standard. I don’t think they should be because we are all people. I don’t think this has changed and I don’t think it will change anytime soon. \

12 .How did Avery grow as a result of her discoveries about her family’s past? How did they change her view of herself and her family’s expectations for her? Did your family have high expectations for you that you didn’t agree with? Who in Avery’s family might struggle most to accept her decision to change her life plans?

     I think by finding her family’s past she learned to take her time. She didn’t have to go to meeting after meeting. She didn’t try to cover things up. She wanted to find out what happened, for it to be known even if her family did something terrible in the past. She learned she was doing things her family wanted her to do and not what she wanted to do. Yes, I’m family had some high expectations for me. They wanted me and still want me to go to back to college. I spent all the money I saved up in high school for my first year of college, only to discover that I couldn’t find a job in that field. I had to get the job before I got the degree which didn’t make any sense. I think her Dad might struggle the most with her new life plans since she was supposed to follow in his footsteps. But she did say she wanted to work her way up on her own so he might respect that.

13. Do you think there will be a happily ever after ending for Avery and Trent? What might that look like?

     I hope so, I think it would look like her having the laid back lawyer job she wanted. And taking care of Trent’s kid and possibly having kids or her own or adopting.

14. How would you describle Rill as she struggles through the abduction, life at the orphanage, and her decision to return to her adoptive family?  Did you admire her?
What changes did you see in herr as a result of the experience? How is she different when she gets to the Serviers’ house?

     A kid that tried to make her dream life reality, but that molded into something better despite the horrible things that happened to most of her biological family. I do admire her bravery to return to her family —both of them. She realized her life would be better with the Seviers. She learns to discover her “own music,” and no longer has the burden of constantly caring for siblings.

15. Avery struggles to come to terms with Grandma Judy’s dementia, and her fasmily wrestles with diffciult chocies about Grandma Judy’s care. Have memory loss and elder care affected your family? If so, what issues did they cause, and how did you dfela with them? Have you imagined what it would be like to be a victim of memory loss?

    Yes, my Papa had dementia before he died. It was hard because he didn’t remember us and he didn’t trust anyone. I have imagined what it would be like to have memory loss, I worked in a dish room in a retirement community and now I try to make my health a priority. I never want to forget who I am.

16. The Seriers seem to; have adopted the Foss girls with good intentions. Do you think they were awaqre of ot at all suspicious about Georgia Tann’s methods? If not, should they have been?

    I think the guy was suspicious before May even told him who she really was. I think the Mrs. Seriers realized after May came back home.

17. What symbolism do you see in the picture of the sisters on the wall? How do you think the sisters felt during their Sisters’ Days? Do you have sisters you are close to or sister-freinds you spend time withh? If so, what do those bonds mean to you?

    I think it symbolized there until, that no matter have different their lives became, they still cared for each other. I think they really lived their sister days, to be around people that were able to know both of the lives they lived. I do have some girlfriends that I spend time with. Their bond means a lot to me because they understand things about me that guys just don’t.

18. Did you wish all seven of the Foss siblings could hav efound on eanother in the end? In your opinion, would that have been realistic or unrealistic? Why do you think the author chose not to bring all the siblings together?

     I think it would’ve been nice if they all found each other. However, that would’ve been unrealistic, I think the sisters are lucky they were able to find each other. I think she chose not to because by the time people figured what Miss Tank was doing a lot of information might have been lost during those years and some of them might already be dead.

19. This novel has garnered worldwide interest in the publicshing induistry and has been translated in more than thirty-five countries as of this writing. Why do youthink the story has drawn international attention? What themes in it are universal?

     I think this has drawn international attention because this is still a real problem. I think human trafficking is universal of children, men and women. Its a problem that needs to stop.

20. Was thje cover a factor in your decision to read Before We Were Yours? What reaction did you have to the cover and title?

     No, I had just noticed a coworker had read it so I decided to read it. I had a sad reaction to it when I read the passage about it in the book.

21. Will you be passing the book on to someone else, or will it remain on your bookshelf? Do you think you’ll give a copy to someone you know?

    I think that maybe I’d let someone borrow it, but I don’t think I’d let them keep it.


Published by Athena Bocock

I am vegan and I like books and writing stories. Recently I've been enjoying romance and animal stories the most.

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